Undergraduate Research on Display

STEM Researchers Present Their Findings

RALEIGH, N.C. (April 22, 2022) – From environmental impacts to antibiotic resistance, Wake Tech students in the STEM Academic Research & Training (START) program presented their projects at the 2022 Student Showcase. The START program allows 55 students studying math, science and engineering at Wake Tech to gain valuable experience as paid research interns.

Among the projects:

  • Isabella Illig and Abdulaziz Salameh worked together to search for naturally occurring antibiotics in ground soil to try to discover a novel antibiotic that may not yet be resistant to treating disease.
  • Kennedi Williams and Will Ingram developed a prototype of a device that measures the growth rate of fingernails to determine biomarkers of health. This was in collaboration with Dr. Herman Pontzer from Duke University.
  • Nadir Sabur took a core sample of a 57-year-old tree on Wake Tech’s Southern Wake Campus to learn about the effects of climate change over the years.
  • Marielise Ishak studied ground and water samples to determine the impact of the N.C. Highway 540 Triangle Expressway construction on the environment.
  • Mohammed Amaan Hussain and Quinn Anderson worked on a cost-saving analysis of a centralized vs. decentralized CPR program for Piedmont Health.

Many of these projects were developed in partnership with local universities, health care institutions and industry organizations.

"A researcher at Duke University was having trouble developing an apparatus to help students determine fingernail growth rate," said Kennedi Williams. "My partner and I have worked on devices that we hope to present to him next semester."

Thanks to a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, along with contributions from Terracon Foundation, the Christman Company, Clancy and Theys and Brooks Pierce, the students are paid $1,000 for a 60-hour commitment on their research project. That commitment includes 15 hours of training, five hours of community-building and 40 hours of research. All students are assigned a faculty mentor.

Undergraduate research is a unique opportunity at Wake Tech.

"Undergraduate research is not typically offered at community colleges," said Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls. "But Wake Tech is not your typical community college. Our partnerships with universities and industry leaders bring a wealth of opportunities for students to start strong with foothold programs and keep 'laddering up' as they advance in their careers."

"Early exposure to undergraduate research allows students to explore all sorts of professions in science, technology, engineering and math," said Dr. Jackie Swanik, associate dean of Mathematics and Sciences. "It will also give them an edge when they transfer to a university."

Much of the research is completed in the state-of-the-art STEM Lab in Building H on the Scott Northern Wake Campus and in labs on the Southern Wake Campus as well. Wake Tech also offers STEM Centers on three campuses and virtually, where students study, collaborate and receive tutoring from their professors. The START program is currently accepting applications for Fall semester. Research projects are available in biology, mathematics, 3-D printing, geology and physics. For more information, visit